Many jam bands in the New England area tend to sound alike. Some, however, offer an inventive take on the genre.
Rhode Island’s Jabbawaukee belongs in the latter category. Its members incorporate various styles and invigorate audiences with their dynamic approach.
The band is a collection of immense talents, including guitarists Graham Gibbs and David Hobson, drummer Jason Laplume, bassist Brendon Bjorness-Murano and keyboardist Albert Silvio. Gibbs, Hobson, Bjorness-Murano and Silvio share duties on vocals. Their debut EP, “Five From The Shack,” came out April 19.
Bjorness-Murano and I had a chat about the band’s range of influences, writing and producing songs, upcoming shows and maintaining a busy schedule.
Rob Duguay: When you guys first started jamming together, which influences were you trying to capture?
Brendon Bjorness-Murano: We all have a lot of common influences that you’ll often hear in the jam band scene, such as Moe., Phish, Grateful Dead, Max Creek, the Allman Brothers, Little Feat, etc. Also, we each have a really eclectic mixture of influences that we bring to the table, that we want to shine through in our music … A few of us are huge progressive rock and groove [and] thrash metal fans – stuff like Pantera, Slayer, Dream Theater and Opeth. Personally, I love funk, Motown, hip hop, R&B and, of course, Primus, the latter being my favorite band ever. But we all also love folk and Americana.
If you listen to our music, you’ll hear all of these influences. Our newly added keyboardist, Albert, is also in a Phish cover band called Oblivious Fools, and Graham’s father was one of Max Creek’s sound guys, so he grew up rooted in this culture. Dave loves the Allman Brothers and Lotus, but he also shreds like Eddie Van Halen. Jason has this New Orleans, Dr. John, Little Feat thing going on. I love playing with these guys.
RD: Along with playing on “Five From The Shack,” you also produced it. How would you describe the experience of handling both sides of the recording process?
BBM: Every band I’ve ever been in, I’ve done this with … I’ve always been the person who records, edits, mixes and masters all of our releases. It definitely has its pros and cons – pros if you’re particular about how you want your album to sound like and you want to save money, cons if you want to give up countless hours of your time for free for a few months, or in Funk Nugget’s case, six years.
RD: On top of playing and recording music, you’re also a wedding DJ and a sound engineer, and you handle some of the booking and sound at Pump House Music Works in Peace Dale. How do you find the time for all this without getting overwhelmed?
BBM: I’m pretty much always working on two albums at once, running sound at the Pump House or Paddy’s Beach Club in Westerly, DJing a wedding once every two weeks, running sound for an event in Charlestown or Narragansett or some music festival in the Northeast, teaching bass, guitar and audio recording classes or gigging with Jabbawaukee. I also have a 4-year-old son, 6-week-old daughter, wife and two chihuahuas. So, yeah, I stay busy. I just try to stay as organized as possible, practice daily, show up early to events, communicate with my family, coworkers and clients.
RD: As a person who’s involved in various parts of the industry, what’s your opinion on the state of live music these days?
BBM: I feel like live music is the music industry now. Songs aren’t recorded for sales, but to give the fans a steady stream of singles to keep their fans interested enough to go spend the money to see them live and buy their merchandise, such T-shirts and autographed posters. Which is fine – that makes the live sound engineer in me happy, but the record producer in me misses the album. To me, the album is a complete picture of what a band is trying to say during a segment of their existence. The new record resurgence is hopeful.
To improve aspects of the music industry, more folks need to pick up an instrument, or watch an old Led Zeppelin concert, go to that open mic, record that CD, put yourself out there, listen to what your favorite artists listen to. It’s not always easy, but it’s how the greats did it and are doing it.
RD: What does Jabbawaukee have planned for the rest of the year?
BBM: We are opening for Twiddle on Aug. 31 at Paddy’s Beach Club, playing the Wormtown 20th Anniversary Music Festival on Sept. 15 in Greenfield, Massachusetts, booking hard in the Northeast this fall and definitely heading back into the studio sometime this winter. We have to keep pushing hard with the shows, staying creative and expanding our playing radius.